(Prior art, Background art)
State of the art search indicates a comprehensive search of existing patents, patent applications, scientific literature, and other publicly available information to determine whether an invention meets the novelty and the inventive step or non-obviousness criteria for patentability.
(Potential) Inventors and patent attorneys perform these searches to refine their inventions, identify potential roadblocks to obtaining a patent, and ensure that a patent application focuses on unique features not already disclosed in prior art. Patent search professionals use specialised tools to identify prior art and evaluate its potential impact on patentability.
Let’s say you have come up with a new type of solar panel that is more efficient and environmentally friendly than existing solar panels. You want to conduct a state of the art search to determine whether the invention is novel and non-obvious and to identify any existing patents or prior art related to solar panels.
To begin the search, you would go to the preferred database and enter relevant keywords, such as “solar panel,” “photovoltaic cell,” and “green energy.” You could also narrow the search by adding additional filters, such as the publication date range and the type of document (e.g., patent, patent application, or scientific article).
The search results may include a list of relevant patents and patent applications that relate to solar panels and photovoltaic cells, as well as scientific articles and other publications related to solar energy and green technology. You could review each of these documents in more detail to determine whether they disclose any prior art that is relevant to your invention.
For example, you may come across a patent for a different type of solar panel that uses similar technology or materials to your invention. After reviewing the patent, you could determine whether your invention is sufficiently novel and non-obvious in comparison to the prior art. Alternatively, you may come across a scientific article that discusses the limitations of existing solar panel technology, which could help to support the patentability of your invention.
During such a search, an innovation or invention may be deemed non-novel and obvious if it is found to have been disclosed or taught by prior art, which includes any publicly available information that predates the filing date of the patent application.
Specifically, an invention may be considered non-novel if it has already been described in a single prior art reference, regardless of whether the reference is a patent, patent application, or any other published material.
An invention can be deemed obvious if the prior art already has a similar solution to the problem the invention is trying to solve. The determination of obviousness relies on factors such as skill level in the relevant field, the differences between the invention and prior art, and whether the prior art would have motivated a person of ordinary skill to make the invention.
Combining known elements to make a new product or process may not be patentable if the combination is obvious to a person with ordinary skills.
Note that social media can count as “publication” in the context of patent law. If an invention is disclosed on SM platforms, it may be considered prior art that can render the invention non-novel. It is best to consult with a patent attorney or someone knowledgeable in patent law regarding strategies and timelines for public disclosures and official filings.
In some jurisdictions, certain patent offices observe a grace period, a limited time during which an inventor can publicly disclose their invention before filing a patent application. During this time, the inventor can test and refine the invention, seek funding or investors, or otherwise promote the invention without losing the ability to file for patent protection. However, this can prove risky if the publication is subsequently deemed to have been too broad or too detailed and renders the invention non-patentable.